The fashion industry has seen an increase in unisex fashion over the last decade and we are slowly moving towards a future where all catwalk shows will showcase clothing for both sexes. I think it’s about time.
Unisex is defined as clothing designed to be suitable for both sexes, a style in which men and women dress in a similar way.
Where as genderless is defined as lacking qualities associated with either sex. This is definitely a matter of opinion but I see these as two quite different terms which I am going to explain further in terms of fashion…
While we start moving towards a genderless future, not just in fashion but in so many aspects of life, there’s still a long way to go. Throughout history the two genders (male and female) have been portrayed as being two very separate beings, with the two doing very separate things and wearing very different things. It wasn’t until the revolutionary decade of the 60s when things started to change. Women slowly started breaking in the workforce doing jobs that were classed as being masculine and were dominated by the men. For this they needed a uniform which is where the power suit came about.
One of the first public displays of fashion being unisex would be the Le Smoking suit developed by Yves Saint Laurent in 1966 which was a classic men’s tuxedo that had been adapted for women. It was complete with a ruffled white shirt, black tie around the neck and wide leg trousers and it perfectly captured Saint Laurent’s view of women’s increasing independence within society as they started to break through to take their place alongside men in society as an equal. At the time this was seen as an innovative expression of gender but today it would not be seen as anything revolutionary.
The idea of putting a women in a men’s suit is not original and done so much that we need new, better ways to express this idea of a genderless future.
The power suit became the uniform of those women who were working in offices outnumbered by men. By wearing a suit it allowed them to somewhat blend in with the men but standing out at the same time with bright colours and the extra padded shoulders showing that they mean business. The rigid structure of them showed strength. This was what they needed at the time to give them power and confidence. But again, nowadays it’s standard to see women in suits, just without the massive shoulders which have lost popularity. However it’s thanks to these women who fought their way into the workplace back then, that women today have so much more opportunity. While there is still a gender divide in some workplaces, the gap is slowly closing and I hope that within my lifetime it closes completely.
From then in the 80s where we saw women wearing men’s clothing, to the 90s when we started to see men wearing women’s clothing. The classic example being the grunge movement which really blurred the lines between the two genders and saw men and women wearing similar items such as the plaid shirt. Which is still a very popular trend today. An icon of this movement was Kurt Cobain who was photographed wearing a dress on the front cover of a magazine. By having a famous face breaking the stereotypes it really opens the door for others to follow. Nowadays the idea of men wearing dresses is somewhat normal with plenty of artists such as Yungblood and Jaden Smith being seen wearing and performing in them.
These things may have been revolutionary back then because they were the first of a kind. It’s now the 21st century and the lines between the two genders are a lot more blurred and there’s so many debates even around the whole idea of gender with people no longer identifying as one or identifying as both. It’s a very different time now and it’s time that we move with the times.
Creating a “unisex” collection by putting a women in a suit doesn’t make much of an impact anymore. In the past, being a women and wearing a men’s suit may have given you a sense of power but what happens when you take off the suit, then you lose that power and you’re back to being just a women. It’s not about putting one gender in the others clothing which is why I prefer to coin the term “genderless fashion” because it feels like there is no reference to the gender binary that we know.
The world is full of labels. But there are so many people out there trying to break the stereotypes and get rid of the labels surrounding gender, to help create a future where we no longer feel shoved in a box. The fashion industry is starting to make changes with brands showcasing one collection per season instead of separating that into menswear and womenswear. It’s a start at least. But by creating unisex collections, it’s still confining people to labels. In some ways it’s still telling those who will wear anything that they have to pick from a collection.
Everyone is unique and different and I think this extends to gender as well because it’s not a scale with man at one end and female at the other end. It’s everything and anything. So I think all clothing should just be genderless with no labels at all as to who or what can wear what.
As Hari Nuf (trans model) stated in a talk about unisex fashion:
“ to find a way out of this binary, it’s more about the people in the clothes and what they are doing… gesture and personality versus trying to figure out the way of the gender binary through clothing”
We need to stop putting labels on people, telling them whereabouts on the scale they should be. As cheesy as it sounds, you can be whoever you wanna be.
I for one have pretty much worn both men’s and women’s clothes for most of my life which is what happens when you have an older brother and you end up which all his hand me downs. But now my wardrobe is still filled with men’s tops, jackets, jumpers, shirts and I even have men’s trousers as well. If something fits then I’m gonna wear it, regardless of the gender. Also most of my shoes are unisex, why do we need to separate them into categories?
This is also beneficial because men’s clothing can be cheaper in a lot of places, even in charity shops. I’m saving money and looking good!
What is your view on genderless fashion?
Having the choice of buying all of my clothing and accessories pieces secondhand is actually a massive privilege, one you may not realise to which is why… Read more “why secondhand shopping is a privilege”